Many Many people aspire to be great leaders. Whether they want to be leaders in a professional capacity, want to lead themselves, or want to have the skills necessary to inspire others personally, leadership development is an admirable goal. However, for many, understanding how to develop leaders is a hurdle because there is so much to learn. In reality, the learning journey never ends, but we’re here to offer a place to begin.
Before someone can understand how to develop leaders, they must first understand what, exactly, leadership development is. Typically, leadership development is understood to be the process of facilitating the growth of individuals so they are capable of acting in leadership positions and providing additional guidance for others, such as through upskilling and building capacity.
In other words, leadership development is the process of supporting someone as they become capable of leading themselves and others, whether they are learning new skills, building confidence, or otherwise growing as an individual.
There are many effective methods of developing leaders, from executive coaching and hiring guides, to long-term relationships of mentoring and taking courses. At Studio/E, we focus on building skills and equipping leaders with the tools they need to navigate a variety of scenarios when exploring the unknown or launching ideas. We call this approach Exploratory Leadership, which is the art of motivating people, including yourself, to effectively travel into the unknown with clarity and confidence to discover more possibility. One of the great things about Exploratory Leadership is that the core principles can be used to hone your leadership skills, and help other leaders, too, as demonstrated below.
Are you wanting to develop your own leadership skills? In addition to these tips, you may want to consider some of our resources to support you, such as our book, “Explore or Expire,” and our guide to finding a coach, mentor, or guide as you take this journey.
7 Tips on How to Develop Leaders
When in the unknown, purpose is recognized as the springboard for all action, acts as a source of energy, and serves as a filter so you can focus on what is essential. Helping those you’re supporting to clearly articulate their purpose will allow them to guide decisions, steer around obstacles, and have courage to face challenges.
Develop a Curious Explorer’s Mindset
One’s mindset is how their beliefs and attitudes shape their perspectives. Exploratory Leaders embrace a Curious Explorer’s Mindset, which allows them to embrace curiosity, embark into the unknown with confidence, and remain motivated and energetic throughout their journeys. To help others develop a curious explorer’s mindset, have them consider these questions: What do they see as the ideal mindset for navigating the unknown? What are three words that describe that mindset that generate energy, excitement, and motivation? What stories do they tell themselves about their leadership skills?
Exploratory Learning Communities
Being a part of an exploratory learning community is critical to expanding your knowledge and experiences so you can navigate the unknown. When we build trusted relationships with those with different skills, experiences, and relationships, our access to knowledge grows. There are many ways to develop trust, including: being upfront and honest with the individual with whom you’re working, even if it means admitting you’re uncertain; taking a genuine interest in their skills, experiences, and relationships; and following through on commitments or promises. Participating in the communities consistently over time will help strengthen your relationships, which are the foundation for any leadership development.
Use Minimum Viable Progress (MVP) to Move Forward
Put another way, don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. It’s OK to take small steps. Have your future leader consider their idea or goals and establish the next steps to make progress, metrics to measure progress, and what the smallest amount of progress is that will still be valuable in moving forward. This thought process is the MVP, or minimum viable progress. By considering progress this way, future leaders can focus on forward momentum, rather than perfection.
Ask Exploratory Questions
Exploratory questions are questions designed to help individuals traverse the unknown by charting the known and beginning to bring structure to their actions. What do they already know? What do they want to know? What are their goals? Questions like these help individuals explore their options and plan for future growth. Collaborate with the person you’re supporting with leadership development to ask — and answer — exploratory questions. Those answers can also help you plan your engagement moving forward by showing you what type of support and how much of it they want.
Increase Accountability with Declared Action
For even more growth, MVPs can be paired with another Exploratory Leadership principle, Declared Action. This is the process of taking exploratory questions to build momentum through declared action. By making declarations of actions they’d like to take, individuals are more likely to follow through. Combining these practices allows future leaders to think creatively, chart their own path, and begin to branch out to independently lead their own growth.
Reflection compounds learning. When you help future leaders regularly reflect and build upon what they have experienced over time, their learnings become further ingrained as wisdom. Better yet, encourage them to take space to reflect and archive learnings, and then share them with others. Reflection reinforces what you have learned and accelerates learning for others.
Benefits of Leadership Development
Understanding how to develop leaders can benefit not only the future leaders, but also the organizations for which they work. If you are coaching, guiding or mentoring younger employees at the company where you work, not only will they grow and thrive, but the company will, too. The more companies — and the individuals within those companies — are willing to invest in leadership development, the more return they will see on the investment in those future leaders.
Leadership development allows companies to more successfully attract, develop, and retain talent. Increasingly, companies are placing importance on attracting high-quality talent, developing talent in-house, and retaining talent in a rapidly changing world. Not only does this reduce the challenges associated with turnover, but employees who feel valuable personally and to their companies are happier and more productive overall.
Similarly, understanding leadership development can help business performance. Research shows when companies invest in their people, they get a huge return on that investment. As noted above, employees who experience leadership development are more satisfied and more productive, which benefits the business’s bottom line. As the socioeconomic conditions of the workplace shift, leadership development can be a cost-effective way of remaining competitive, being more effective, and improving outcomes.
Companies that invest in their teams are also better able to withstand — and even thrive during — organizational and industry change. When more people in a company are equipped with leadership skills, they are more capable of supporting organizational change, from executing on changes and addressing cultural needs to managing the emotions and questions employees have about change in a trusting environment.
By understanding and applying leadership development practices and Exploratory Leadership, you can help your company grow and thrive in the long run.
How to Develop Leaders
If the idea of undertaking leadership development for an employee or mentee is overwhelming, let us help. Using our own experiences and the learnings of other leaders, Studio/E has developed a proven and authoritative leadership development course, the Expedition Program. The Expedition Program empowers leaders to courageously explore the unknown. Attendees will learn the principles of Exploratory Leadership and how to explore the unknown to achieve new desired results alongside a supportive cohort of peers and experienced Guides.
The Expedition Program is a valuable leadership development program for people at all stages of their career and personal development, meaning anyone you know could benefit from it — even you. Sign up for yourself, your employees, or contact us to collaborate on a company-wide program today. Find more information on the Expedition Program here to see if it’s right for you.